Argentina vs Switzerland: Lionel Messi and Argentina looking to finally flex their muscles

Alejandro Sabella hopes knockout stages will focus squad

On the eve of Argentina’s first knock-out game, manager Alejandro Sabella was asked about the primary issue hanging over Brazil’s public house party. Have his team thought much about the idea of winning the World Cup in the home of their most historic rivals, especially given all it would entail?

LIVE: The latest from Argentina vs Switzerland and Belgium vs United States

Sabella refused to offer any comment that would stoke further emotion, but did raise something else. “First of all, winning the World Cup is a huge motivation. We haven’t won it since 1986.”

To do that, Argentina are also going to have to pass a few more elementary challenges. Remarkably for a country with such a World Cup history, they have not reached the semi-finals in 24 years. That is because, in that time, they have barely beaten anybody else after the group stages.

One stat stands out. Since 1990, Mexico are the only country that Argentina have actually defeated in normal time of a knock-out, having met them in 2006 and 2010.

Beyond that, they famously beat England on penalties in 1998, but have otherwise lost to Romania, the Netherlands and - on two occasions - Germany.

As such, it is not just Switzerland that Argentina must overcome in Sao Paulo today, but a curious mental complex about the latter stages of this competition.

 

The difference this time is that Sabella feels it is precisely the knock-out that will focus minds.

“This is another stage and there is no margin for error. In the group stage, there is always the possibility to recover. Not now. We know we have to be very concentrated. Every error now is more costly, also because of the level of the opposition.

“You have to be strong emotionally and psychologically. I think there’s a philosopher who once said that one gram of brain cell is more important than any muscle in the body.”

The expectation is Argentina will finally flex their muscles tomorrow.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory